Samford University The BelltowerJanuary 2005

student working in Perry County

Potts Salutes Samford’s Perry County Initiatives

“...The county in which Samford was founded as Howard College in 1841 is today one of the state's poorest, with high poverty rates that have led some to call it 'the third world of Alabama'..."

Judson College President David E. Potts reminded Samford University seniors of Helen Keller's prescription for "true happiness" during Fall Commencement Saturday, Dec. 18. Happiness, Keller believed, is acquired "through fidelity to a worthy purpose."

Potts said Samford’s ongoing service projects in Judson’s home of Perry County, Alabama, constitute such a purpose. The county in which Samford was founded as Howard College in 1841 is today one of the state's poorest, with high poverty rates that have led some to call it "the third world of Alabama."

Through programs that send to Perry County tutors, readers, organizers for summer enrichment programs, pharmacy students and other volunteers, "you bring hope!" Potts told the 280 graduates and others attending Commencement. "While commissions study again and again the plight of the Black Belt and recommend the same or similar action plans of previously appointed commissions, while councils wring their hands over poverty and failure, while government and foundations mandate ineffective and costly programs without input from the very people they wish to aid, you act," he said. "You understand what so few seem to know. You don't do 'to' or 'for' the poor. You are 'with' the poor." Potts added, "In these remarkable initiatives, we discover meaning and purpose by giving of ourselves to those in need."

Potts told his audience that, while there are many sound economic, political and social reasons for focusing attention on Perry County, "I believe the community of believers, of Christ-followers, should reach out to this county and to this region because it is the right thing to do."

Ministering to the poor is one of the most prominent themes in the Bible, he noted, citing the chapter in Matthew in which Jesus says, "Assuredly, I say to you, in as much as you did it to one of the least of these, My brethren, you did it to Me."

Read the full commencement address in this issue of The Belltower.

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